* U.N. aid chief, Red Crescent enter abandoned Homs district
* Amos on trip to Syria seeking unhindered access for aid
* ICRC, Red Crescent gave aid to Baba Amr families in nearby
* ICRC still operating in other troubled Syrian cities
(adds details on Amos, Baba Amr families in Abel, new paras 3
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA, March 7 U.N. humanitarian chief
Valerie Amos and a convoy from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent were
allowed into the devastated Homs district of Baba Amr on
Wednesday but found that the majority of civilians had fled, the
International Committee of the Red Cross said.
Amos, who was denied entry to Syria last week, was beginning
a three-day mission to try to persuade Syrian authorities to
grant unhindered access for aid workers to deliver life-saving
assistance to civilians..
She was believed to have returned to the capital, Damascus,
on Wednesday night, where she had held talks earlier in the day
with Foreign Minister Walid Moualem.
An ICRC aid convoy has been unable to enter Baba Amr since
arriving in Homs last Friday, a day after rebel fighters fled
following nearly a month of shelling by government forces.
Activists had reported bloody reprisals by forces loyal to
President Bashar al-Assad in Baba Amr after the rebels withdrew.
A team of Syrian Arab Red Crescent aid workers who entered
Baba Amr on Wednesday for the first time in 10 days found that
most residents had fled.
"The Syrian Arab Red Crescent stayed inside Baba Amr for
about 45 minutes. They found that most inhabitants had left Baba
Amr for areas that have already been visited by the ICRC and the
Syrian Arab Red Crescent in the past week," ICRC spokesman
Hicham Hassan told Reuters in Geneva.
These other areas were neighbourhoods of Homs and the nearby
village of Abel where ICRC and Red Crescent workers distributed
aid on Wednesday, for the second time since Sunday, he said.
The teams provided assistance to 450 families in Abel on
Wednesday, about 2,700 people, most of them from Babr Amr, he
added. That was in addition to some 2,100 people helped earlier
this week, suggesting that thousands of people have fled from
Baba Amr to Abel.
Hassan, asked whether most civilians from Baba Amr are
accounted for, said: "We don't have a way of knowing, but aim to
continue helping people including those who have fled Baba Amr."
MEETING IN DAMASCUS
Earlier Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman of the United Nations
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said
that Amos had met Foreign Ministry officials in Damascus and was
on her way to Homs, Syria's third largest city.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry confirmed Amos had held talks
with Foreign Minister Moualem but gave no details.
The state news agency SANA said the minister had stressed
that the country's leadership was doing its best to meet
civilians' needs despite the burden of "unfair sanctions"
imposed by some Arab and Western countries.
The ICRC is the only international agency allowed to deploy
aid workers in Syria. They have been providing food and medical
supplies since the conflict began nearly a year ago.
Red Crescent teams have evacuated 30 people needing medical
attention from Baba Amr on its two previous visits, including
some who were seriously wounded, according to the ICRC.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has voiced alarm at
reports that government forces have executed, imprisoned and
tortured people in Baba Amr.
Despite a green light received from the Syrian authorities
nearly a week ago and their "daily assurances", ICRC officials
have not been allowed into the neighbourhood.
"The fact remains that we have not been allowed into Baba
Amr and we do not know when it will be possible," Hassan said.
Meanwhile, other areas of Syria are affected by unrest and
other people need assistance, he said.
Over the past few days, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent has
also distributed aid provided by the ICRC to Hama, Idlib, Deraa,
rural Damascus and the eastern city of Raqqa, he said.
"The situation as we see it today is that unrest is still
taking place mainly in Hama, Deraa, rural Damascus, Homs and
Idlib," Hassan said.
The civilian population is reeling from the economic impact
of the fighting and has seen its purchasing power shrink, he
"We just finished distributions in the village of Abel for
the second time. It was mainly food, blankets and baby milk,"
Profile on Amos:
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Andrew Osborn)